In the middle of my run today, it hit me – I am really enjoying this. I am not feeling tired, I am breathing nice and steady, and my mind is not focused on my end point and thinking ‘Can I make it?’
If you have not read my previous posts in this series, you will not know that “in the middle of my run” is not 10 miles, or 5 miles, or even 3 miles. I seldom run more than 3 miles at a time, but I was having some fun over the summer with pushing my physical limits with regard to speed.
There were times when I truly was not sure if I could keep going, even if I slowed down when my breathing felt frantic. It felt like I could only recover by stopping and just walking for long enough to regain my breathing rhythm.
Over the past few weeks, I have headed out for runs making a new deal with myself: Kim, you can go at ANY pace you want. Just get out there.” This attitude got me out the door several times when I would not have gone if I thought I had to push the speed.
Sure, it felt good to accomplish speed goals. Just to know I could do it gave me a mental boost, even though I was completely whipped by the end. However, after a few leisurely runs, it occurred to me that my short-lived fanaticism just didn’t feel “right” in a bigger sense. Today it dawned on me that the speed strategy was not in line with my real goal – my BIG goal – which is to feel as good as I can and be super healthy. I simply felt less achy and looked forward to my runs more when I was more moderate.
I don’t regret pushing the limits, because I realize it helped me to find my balancing point between what was too easy and what was too hard. I now define that healthy balance in terms of my breathing. I no longer keep looking at my Garmin watch to see my pace. I let my breathing guide me. If I start sucking wind, I slow down right away and steady the breath. If I think I can feel good picking up the pace, I do it.
So human, isn’t it? I started from a point of very little effort, hardly running at all a year ago, and then I got a little full of myself and pushed to the other side. I needed to see just how far I could go.
I found out when I naturally started slowing the pace. Now I consistently run about a 9.5 minute mile, regardless of whether I clock it or not. I also find that I can occasionally run 4 or 5 miles and enjoy it, but usually 3 is the magic number. My body knows its balancing point.
I see this with weight loss. People can feel a little fanatical when they start seeing results. “Well, that wasn’t so hard. Let’s see what happens if I cut back more.” They eventually reach a point of effort (suffering?!) where they swing back the other way until they find that comfy spot, the point where they aren’t always looking at the calendar and wondering how long this can continue – much like me looking at my watch when I run, gasping for air and wanting to quit. Thoughts?
After I wrote this, I re-read my last post about running. Hmmm. It seems that I realized, in the middle of my speed demon phase, that my speed tended to balance out over the course of a run – faster spurts were often followed by an opposing slower pace. It just took me a little longer to realize the bigger reality of balance as it applies to my genuine lifestyle goals.